New drug cuts heart failure risk in mice

November 19th, 2008 - 12:46 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Nov 19 (ANI): Scientists at Miragen Therapeutics in Boulder, Colorado have found that a new drug seems to protect mice from heart failure even when enormous pressure is placed on their hearts.

According to the researchers, if the results can be replicated in humans, it could help millions of people avoid some of the long-term consequences of a heart attack.

The new drug targets a micro RNA - a molecule that inhibits the expression of a network of genes.

Recently, the researchers found that a micro RNA called miR-208 is implicated in heart failure and that mice engineered to lack the gene for miR-208 are protected against heart failure.

Therefore, William Marshall at Miragen Therapeutics in Boulder, Colorado, and his colleagues developed an injectable antagomir - a string of nucleic acids designed to bind to miR-208 and block its action.

In the study, they injected the antagomir into the hearts of healthy mice then severely stressed them by tying a band around the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.

The researchers found that blocking the inhibitory effects of miR-208 caused an increase in gene expression and the hearts did not develop the usual signs of heart failure, which include enlarged muscle cells and a switch towards a fetal form of heart protein that makes the heart beat less efficiently.

“This is the first time that a drug has been able to reverse the switch [to the fetal protein] and take it back to the [adult] form,” New Scientist quoted Marshall, as saying

Marshall is now trying to replicate the results in sheep and hopes that the drug could eventually be injected into human hearts, perhaps alongside surgery after a heart attack in order to protect people against heart failure.

Hasse Bronnum, a researcher in molecular cardiology at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, said: “If the data are reproducible in humans, there will be vast clinical potential for applying miR-208 antagonists in the treatment of a number of cardiac diseases.

However, he cautions that Marshall has not yet shown that the antagomir is protective after heart attacks.

The study is published in the journal Science. (ANI)

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